Chess pie is a true Southern classic. It’s a creamy, sweet custard pie that has been around for decades—and our old-fashioned recipe bakes perfectly every time!
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One of the best things about chess pie is how easy it is to make. The simplest pies are sometimes the best!
Our chess pie recipe uses basic ingredients like sugar, flour, eggs, and vanilla to make a creamy custard filling. I use buttermilk rather than whole milk to add a delicious tangy flavor that goes so well with the sweet pie, so if you enjoyed our buttermilk pie recipe, you’ll love this chess pie too.
Every bite of this chess pie is perfectly balanced and totally irresistible. I am starting to crave a piece just writing this!
Classic Chess Pie Recipe
My chess pie starts with an unbaked, store-bought pie crust. Sure, you can make your own pie crust if you feel inclined, but a flaky pre-made crust will work as well! Just make sure it is unbaked, as the crust will cook with the filling.
Keep in mind that chess pie is best when chilled. So, while the filling only takes less than ten minutes to whisk together, you do need to allow some time to bake and cool the pie before eating. I like to make chess pie a day in advance so it is cold, creamy, and easy to slice.
Chess pie is perfect exactly as it is and it really needs no toppings. You can add a little whipped cream to the top if you’d like. Some people like to sprinkle a pinch of nutmeg over the top. To me, basic is best, especially in the case of true, classic chess pie. I think this chess pie recipe has all the flavor it needs baked right into the pie crust!
See recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.
- Pie crust – I love using frozen pie crust, as I can press it into my own pie pan and make the entire pie look homemade.
- Brown sugar
- Flour – Flour is necessary to set the custard pie. You can use gluten-free flour mix as long as it has xanthan gum in the ingredients.
- Buttermilk – If you do not have buttermilk, mix ⅔ cup of whole milk with 1 tablespoon of white vinegar. The vinegar will thicken the milk and turn it into homemade buttermilk.
- Butter – Melt the butter and let it cool before blending it into the pie filling to keep the butter from cooking the eggs.
- Vanilla Extract
How to Make Chess Pie
- Preheat the oven: Preheat your oven to 350ºF. I always do this first so the oven is hot and ready the moment I am done assembling the pie.
- Whisk the dry ingredients: Whisk the sugars, salt, and flour together.
- Whisk the wet ingredients: In a separate bowl, whisk all the remaining wet ingredients together.
- Combine the wet and dry ingredients: Whisk the wet ingredient mix with the dry ingredient mix until smooth. The mixture will be very liquid.
- Pour and bake: Pour the filling into the prepared unbaked pie crust, then bake in the preheated oven for about 50 to 55 minutes. The center of the pie should be set and jiggle only slightly when you touch it.
- Cool and slice: Let the pie cool completely; refrigerating the pie overnight is best. Slice and enjoy!
Place the unbaked pie crust on a baking sheet before you pour in the filling. It is so much easier to move a baking sheet than to try to maneuver a small custard pie. The tray also catches any spills that may occur as you shift the pie around in the oven. The less clean up, the better!
Substitutions and Variations
Give a few of these alterations a try to switch up the chess pie, making it perfectly customized to your tastes:
- Stir ½ cup of chocolate chips into the pie filling to make chocolate chess pie.
- Serve the chess pie with fresh fruit and whipped cream to really put it over the top.
- Use an unbaked chocolate pie crust for a chocolatey take on this classic dessert.
- Use gluten-free flour mix in place of flour along with a gluten-free pie crust to make a gluten-free chess pie.
- Use almond extract in place of vanilla extract to make a slightly nutty tasty pie. I love doing this around the holidays when almond extract is in season.
How to Store Chess Pie
Chess pie should be stored in the refrigerator. It is a custard pie, so it needs to be kept cold or it will spoil. Chess pie will keep for about 4-5 days in the fridge.
Cover the pie with plastic wrap to keep it fresh or place the chess pie in an airtight pie container. I love this portable pie container, which has handles which make it super easy to bring the pie to friends and family.
Chess pie is a type of custard pie. It is unique because it is made with buttermilk rather than whole milk. The buttermilk adds a tangy, acidic taste which balances the sweetness of the pie.
Chess pie is also called vinegar pie. This name comes from the vinegar in the buttermilk. Vinegar was a common ingredient in Southern pies since vinegar was produced in the South. Everyone had a jar of vinegar in their house, so they put it to good use!
Chess pie is not necessarily associated with a specific state, but an entire region. It’s a classic staple of the Southern US, with roots in almost every Southern state. Some say the first chess pie was baked in North Carolina, but Tennessee also claims to be the birthplace of the chess pie. No matter who made it first, we absolutely love it!
More Classic Pie Recipes
Coconut Cream Pie
Classic French Silk Pie
Banana Cream Pie
Southern Style Chess Pie
- 1 9 inch pie crust, unbaked
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoon flour
- 5 eggs
- ⅔ cup buttermilk
- ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
- Add the white sugar, brown sugar, salt, and flour to a large bowl and whisk together.
- In a separate small bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla.
- Pour the wet mix into the dry ingredient bowl and whisk to form a smooth, liquid filling.
- Pour the chess pie filling into the unbaked pie crust.
- Bake for about 50-55 minutes. The custard should be set in the center of the pie and jiggle slightly when you touch it. The top of the pie will no longer look wet but have a matte, golden brown color.
- Let the pie cool completely before slicing and serving.
I tend to agree with the first reviewer, this sounds more like buttermilk pie. One of the best, defining characteristics of Chess Pie is the thin, slightly crispy brown layer on top, on a pie that is allowed to come to room temperature after baking. Putting it in the fridge would soften the top, and change the consistency. And, where’s the cornmeal? 😀. This recipe does sound delicious, but probably not what I would use for classic Chess Pie here in Alabama.
This is not a traditional Southern chess pie. Chess pie is butter, sugar, eggs and where’s the cornmeal? You can add chocolate for chocolate chess or lemon juice and rind for lemon chess. Chess pies are very sweet and very rich so you can only eat a skinny slice.
Never heard of buttermilk in a old fashioned chess pie. What you have listed here is a buttermilk pie which sounds delicious. Just thought I would clarify.